Crack is Whack mural by Keith Haring in Harlem
Photo Courtesy of NYC Parks

Even now, more than thirty after his death, Keith Haring remains a symbol of New York City’s street art scene. Haring came to New York to study at the School of Visual Arts in 1978 and quickly immersed himself in the city’s alternative art scene, befriending Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Andy Warhol. While he experimented with video, installation, collage, and performance art, his true talent lay in his line paintings.

Over time, he came to be known for his distinctive style using bold, heavy lines, simple shapes and figures, and bright colors. In the ’80s, Haring gained international recognition, but he never stopped giving back to the community, creating many public murals around the world. He died on February 16, 1990, in his apartment in Greenwich Village due to complications from AIDS. Here, we look back at the work Haring left behind for New Yorkers to enjoy.

8. New York Historical Society, Upper West Side

Keith Haring ceiling mural NY Historical Society pop shop NYC Untapped Cities

In April 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop in Soho, where he sold t-shirts, toys, posters, buttons, and magnets with his designs on them. Though the shop was criticized in the art world, Haring saw it as a way to make his work accessible to a wide audience that couldn’t afford to buy works of art.

He painted an abstract white-on-black mural in the shop’s interior. When the store closed in 2005, the Haring Foundation donated a part of this mural to the New York Historical Society. It now hangs above the admissions desk.